With Coronavirus Fears Around the World, Should Geneva Motor Show Go Ahead?

Coronavirus Crisis is threatening an Already Downbeat Geneva Motor Show

The Geneva Motor Show is just a couple of weeks away and given that the Beijing Auto Show has been postponed due to novel coronavirus nCoV fears, should the Geneva show make the same decision?

This year’s Beijing auto show – planned for April – is being postponed due to the coronavirus health crisis and many other major events are also having to reconsider whether it is safe to proceed, given just how fast the virus is spreading.

Computer modelling at leading universities predict that for each new case of novel coronavirus nCoV diagnosed, an average of 2.5 people will also become infected.

How the virus is spread
The coronavirus is spread through close physical contact and via tiny droplets in the air. Therefore, any event attracting thousands of people must be considered a higher than normal risk. Mainly as there is a high probability, some attendees will have visited places where the virus is more prevalent.

The Federal Office of Public Health said on Monday; “We and our partners are preparing for the eventuality that the new coronavirus will spread in Switzerland”. The FOPH advises avoiding close contact (less than 2 metres) with anyone who has an acute respiratory disease, regardless of where they come from. This, however, would prove difficult at an event such as the Geneva Motor Show.

Update: Switzerland reported its first case of the coronavirus on Tuesday, 25th February. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reported the male patient who is in his seventies was from the canton Ticino in the south of the country which borders Italy. The FOPH has not changed its risk assessment in Switzerland and they say the risk posed to the population is only moderate.

Given the postponement of the Beijing Show, should the Geneva Motor Show follow in the same vein now that the virus has been confirmed in the country?

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Will Coronavirus Fears Impact on the Geneva Motor Show?

David Leggett, Automotive Editor at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“The coronavirus public health crisis alone puts a big question mark next to this year’s Geneva Motor Show, scheduled for March. The organisers will be closely monitoring the crisis, as will exhibitors. If one or two exhibitors decide the health risks to staff are too high, that will likely trigger more to withdraw until the show looks unsustainable.

“But the truth is, big motor shows are losing favour anyway as big marketing opportunities for the car companies. Falling visitor numbers suggest that enthusiasts and potential car buyers are less inclined to attend.

Brands that will not be present at Geneva this year include Cadillac, Citroen, Ford, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Opel, Peugeot, Subaru, Tata and Volvo – that is quite a long list.

“Thanks to the internet and burgeoning news and car websites, new models have been seen online well in advance. Car shows are also expensive places to exhibit at and the old ‘A-list’ circuit – Geneva, Paris, Frankfurt, Detroit and Tokyo – have been supplemented by increasing competition from shows in emerging markets where presence has been seen as more future-facing. That creates additional pressure on marketing budgets.

“Indeed, companies such as Ford have re-examined their marketing budgets and strategies, now favouring big dedicated major model launch events that they can get many journalists to for maximised media coverage.”
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Update, Tuesday 25th February: The Geneva Motor Show seems to be going ahead despite worldwide coronavirus fears. Although the organisers are working with Geneva health authorities to create an awareness campaign for visitors and they’ve stated “the current situation in Switzerland is rather reassuring” as “none of the samples tested so far have been positive for coronavirus.” It is still a huge risk, given that visitors to the bordering country of Italy are now being advised to self-isolate when coming back to the UK whether they are showing any symptoms or not.

What is worrying is a number of people who’ve tested positive showed no prior symptoms of the coronavirus. It has been reported the incubation period – during which a person has the disease, but no symptoms yet – ranges from between one and 14 days.

Many people, particularly those linked to the automotive sector will be saying that the business needs to continue, and the Geneva Motor Show is too important to postpone or cancel. My view is the risk outweighs the benefits, and it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. – Paul Godbold, Founder of Luxurious Magazine®.

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